Old Deccan Days/Chandra's Vengeance
THERE was once a Sowkar's wife who had no children. One day she went crying to her husband and saying, 'What an unhappy woman I am to have no children! If I had any children to amuse me I should be quite happy.' He answered, 'Why should you be miserable on that account? though you have no children, your sister has eight or nine; why not adopt one of hers?' The Sowkar's wife agreed; and adopting one of her sister's little boys, who was only six months old, brought him up as her own son. Some time afterwards, when the child was one day returning from school, he and one of his school-fellows quarrelled and began to fight, and the other boy (being much the older and stronger of the two) gave him a great blow on the head and knocked him down, and hurt him very much. The boy ran crying home, and the Sowkar's wife bathed his head and bandaged it up, but she did not send and punish the boy who hurt him, for she thought, 'One can't keep children shut up always in the house, and they will be fighting together sometimes and hurting themselves.' Then the child grumbled to himself, saying, 'This is only my aunt; that is why she did not punish the other boy. If she had been my mother she would certainly have given him a great knock on his head, to punish him for knocking mine, but because she is only my aunt, I suppose she doesn't care.' The Sowkar's wife overheard him, and felt very grieved, saying, 'This little child, whom I have watched over from his babyhood, does not love me as if I were his mother. It is of no use; he is not my own, and he will never care for me as such.' So she took him home to his own mother, saying, 'Sister, I have brought you back your child.'—'How is this?' asked her sister; 'you adopted him as yours for all his life. Why do you now bring him back?' The Sowkar's wife did not tell her sister what she had heard the boy say, but she answered, 'Very well, let him be yours and mine; he shall live a while with you, and then come and visit me; we will both take care of him.' And, returning to her husband, she told him what she had done, saying, 'All my pains are useless; you know how kind I have been to my sister's boy, yet, after all I have done for him, at the end of seven years he does not love me as well as he does his mother, whom he has scarcely seen. Now, therefore, I will never rest until I have seen Mahadeo, and ask him to grant that I may have a child of my own.'
'What a foolish woman you are!' answered her husband; 'why not be content with your lot? How do you think you will find Mahadeo? Do you know the road to heaven?'—' Nay,' she replied, 'but I will seek for it until I find it out, and if I never find it, it cannot be helped, but I will return home no more unless my prayer is answered.' So she left the house, and wandered into the jungle, and after she had travelled through it for many, many days and left her own land very far behind, she came to the borders of another country, even the Madura Tinivelly country, where a great river rolled down towards the sea. On the river-bank sat two women—a Ranee named Coplinghee Ranee, and a Nautch woman.
Now, neither the Ranee, the Nautch woman, nor the Sowkar's wife had ever seen each other before they met at the river-side. Then, as she sat down to rest and drink some of the water, the Ranee turned to the Sowkar's wife, and said to her, 'Who are you, and where are you going?' She answered, 'I am a Sowkar's wife from a far country, and because I was very unhappy at having no children, I am going to find Mahadeo and ask him to grant that I may have a child of my own.'
Then, in her turn, she said to the Ranee, 'And pray who are you, and where are you going?' The Ranee answered, 'I am Coplinghee Ranee, queen of all this country, but neither money nor riches can give me joy, for I have no children; I therefore am going to seek Mahadeo and ask him to grant that I may have a child.' Then Coplinghee Ranee asked the Nautch woman the same question, saying, 'And who may you be, and where are you going?' The Nautch woman answered, 'I am a dancing-woman, and I also have no children, and am going to seek Mahadeo and pray to him for a child.' At hearing this, the Sowkar's wife said, 'Since we are all journeying on the same errand, why should we not go together?' To this Coplinghee Ranee and the Dancing-woman agreed, so they all three continued their journey together through the jungle.
On, on, on they went, every day further and further; they never stayed to rest, nor saw another human being. Their feet ached dreadfully, and their clothes wore out, and they had nothing to live on but the jungle-plants, wild berries and seeds. So weary and worn did they become that they looked like three poor old beggar-women. Never had they by night-time sleep, nor by day-time rest; and so, hour after hour, month after month, year after year, they travelled on.
At last, one day, they came to where, in the midst of the jungle, there rolled a great river of fire. It was the biggest river they had ever seen, and made of flames instead of water. There was no one on this side and no one on that; no way of getting across but by walking through the fire.
When Coplinghee Ranee and the Nautch woman saw this, they said, 'Alas! here is the end of all our pains and trouble. All hope is over, for we can go no further.' But the Sowkar's wife answered, 'Shall we be deterred by this, after having come so far? Nay, rather seek a way across the fire.' And, so saying, she stepped into the fire waves; the others, however, were afraid, and would not go. When the Sowkar's wife had half crossed the river of fire, she turned, and waving her hands towards them, said, 'Come on, come on! do not be afraid. The fire does not burn me. I go to find Mahadeo; perhaps he is but the other side.' But they still refused, saying, 'We cannot come, but we will wait here until you return; and if you find Mahadeo, pray for us also, that we may have children.'
So the Sowkar's wife went on her way, and the fire waves lapped round her feet as if they had been water, but they did not hurt her.
When she reached the other side of the river she came upon a great wilderness, full of wild elephants, and of bison, and lions, and tigers, and bears, that roared and growled on every side. But she did not turn back for fear of them, for she said to herself, 'I can but die once, and it is better that they should kill me, than that I should return without finding Mahadeo.' And all the wild beasts allowed her to pass through the midst of them and did her no harm.
Now it came to pass that Mahadeo looked down from heaven and saw her, and when he saw her he pitied her greatly, for she had been twelve years wandering upon the face of the earth to find him. Then he caused a beautiful mango-tree, beside a fair well, to spring up in the desert to give her rest and refreshment, and he himself, in the disguise of a Gosain Fakeer, came and stood by the tree. But the Sowkar's wife would not stay to gather the fruit or drink the water; she did not so much as notice the Fakeer, but walked straight on, in her weary search for Mahadeo. Then he called after her, 'Bai, Bai, where are you going? Come here.' She answered, scarcely looking at him, 'It matters not to you, Fakeer, where I am going. You tell your prayer-beads, and leave me alone.'—'Come here,' he cried; 'come here!' But she would not, so Mahadeo went and stood in front of her, no longer disguised as a Fakeer, but shining brightly, the Lord of Kylas in all his beauty, and at the sight of him the poor Sowkar's wife fell down on the ground and kissed his feet; and he said to her, 'Tell me, Bai, where are you going?' She answered, 'Sir, I seek Mahadeo, to pray him to grant that I may have a child, but for twelve years I have looked for him in vain.' He said, 'Seek no further, for I am Mahadeo; take this mango,' and he gathered one off the tree that grew by the well, 'and eat it, and it shall come to pass that when you return home you shall have a child.' Then she said, 'Sir, three women came seeking you, but two stayed by the river of fire, for they were afraid; may not they also have children?'
'If you will,' he answered, 'you may give them some of your mango, and then they also will each have a child.'
So saying, he faded from her sight, and the Sowkar's wife returned, glad and joyful, through the wilderness and the river of fire, to where the Ranee and the Dancing-woman were waiting for her on the other side. When they saw her, they said, 'Well, Sowkar's wife, what news?' She answered, 'I have found Mahadeo, and he has given me this mango, of which if we eat we shall each have a child.' And she took the mango, and squeezing it, gave the juice to the Ranee, and the skin she gave to the Nautch woman, and the pulp and the stone she ate herself.
Then these three women returned to their own homes; Coplinghee Ranee and the Dancing-woman to the Madura Tinivelly country, and the Sowkar's wife to very, very far beyond that, even the land where her husband lived, and whence she had first started on her journey.
But, on their return, all their friends only laughed at them, and the Sowkar said to his wife, 'I cannot see much good in your mad twelve years' journey; you only come back looking like a beggar, and all the world laughs at you.'—'I don't care,' she answered; 'I have seen Mahadeo, and eaten of the mango, and I shall have a child.' And within a while it came to pass that there was born to the Sowkar and his wife a little son, and on the very same day Coplinghee Ranee had a daughter, and the Nautch woman had a daughter.
Then were they all very happy, and sent everywhere to tell their friends the good news; and each gave, according to her power, a great feast to the poor, as a thank-offering to Mahadeo, who had been merciful to them. And the Sowkar's wife called her son 'Koila,' in memory of the mango stone; and the Nautch woman called her daughter 'Moulee;' and the little Princess was named Chandra Bai, for she was as fair and beautiful as the white moon.
Chandra Ranee was very beautiful, the most beautiful child in all that country, so pretty and delicately made that everybody, when they saw her, loved her. She was born, moreover, with, on her ankles, two of the most costly anklets that ever were seen. They were made of gold and very precious stones, dazzling to look at, like the sun. No one had ever seen any like them before. Every day as the baby grew, these bangles grew, and round them were little bells, which tinkled when any one came near. Chandra's parents were very happy and proud, and sent for all the wise men in the kingdom to tell her fortune. But the most learned of the Brahmans, when he saw her, said, 'This child must be sent out of the country at once, for if she stays in it she will destroy all the land with fire, and burn it utterly.'
The Rajah, at hearing these words, was very angry, and said to the Brahman, 'I will cut off your head, for you tell lies and not the truth.' The Brahman answered, 'Cut off my head if you will, but it is the truth I speak, and no lie. If you do not believe me, let a little wool be fetched, and put it upon the child, that you may know my words are true.'
So they fetched some wool and laid it upon the baby, and no sooner had they done so, than it all blazed up and burned till not a bit was left, and it scorched the hands of the attendants.
Then the Brahman said, 'As this fire has burned the wool, so will this Princess one day, if she comes here, burn this whole land.' And they were all very much frightened, and the Rajah said to the Ranee, 'This being so, the child must be sent out of the country instantly.' The poor Ranee thereat was very sad, and she did all in her power to save her little baby, but the Rajah would not hear of it, and commanded that the Princess should be placed in a large box, and taken to the borders of his land, where a great river rolled down to the sea, and there thrown into the stream, that it might carry her far, far away, each minute further from her native land. Then the Ranee caused a beautiful golden box to be made, and put her little baby in it, with many tears (since all her efforts to save it were of no avail), and it was taken away and thrown into the river.
The box floated on, and on, and on, until at last it reached the country where the Sowkar and the Sowkar's wife lived. Now it chanced that, just as the box was floating by, the Sowkar, who had gone down to the river to wash his face, caught sight of it, and seeing a fisherman, not far off, prepared to throw his net into the water, he cried, 'Run, Fisherman, run, run, do not stop to fish, but cast your net over that glittering box and bring it here to me.''I will not, unless you promise me that the box shall be mine,' said the Fisherman. 'Very well,' answered the Sowkar; 'the box shall be yours, and whatever it contains shall belong to me.'
So the Fisherman cast his net in that part of the river, and dragged the box ashore.
I don't know which was most astonished, the Merchant or the Fisherman, when they saw what a prize they had found. For the box was composed entirely of gold and precious stones, and within it lay the most lovely little child that ever was seen.
She seemed a little Princess, for her dress was all made of cloth of gold, and on her feet were two anklets that shone like the sun.
When the Sowkar opened the box, she smiled, and stretched out her little arms towards him. Then he was pleased, and said, 'Fisherman, the box is yours, but this child must belong to me.' The Fisherman was content that it should be so, for he had many children of his own at home, and wanted no more, but was glad to have the golden box; while the Sowkar, who had only his one little son, and was rich, did not care for the box, but was well pleased to have the baby.
He took her home to his wife, and said, 'See, wife, here is a pretty little daughter-in-law for us. Here is a wife for your little son.' And when the Sowkar's wife saw the child looking so beautiful and smiling so sweetly, her heart was glad, and she loved her, and from that day took the greatest care of her, just as if the baby-girl had been her own daughter. And when Chandra Ranee was a year old, they married her to their son, Koila.
Years wore on, and the Sowkar and his wife were in a good old age gathered to their fathers. Meantime, Koila and Chandra had grown up the handsomest couple in all the country: Koila tall and straight, with a face like a young lion, and Chandra as lithe and graceful as a palm-tree, with a face calm and beautiful like the silver moonlight.
Meantime, 'Moulee,' the Nautch woman's daughter (and third of the mango children), had likewise grown up, in the Madura Tinivelly country, and was also very fair, fairer than any one in all the land around. Moreover, she danced and sang more beautifully than any of the other Nautch girls. Her voice was clear as the voice of a quail, and it rang through the air with such power that the sound could be heard a twelve-days' journey off. The Nautch people used to travel about from place to place, staying one day in one town and the next in another, and so it happened that in their wanderings they reached the borders of the land where Koila and Chandra lived.
One morning Koila heard the sound of singing in the distance, and it pleased him so well that he determined to try and discover who it was that possessed such an exquisite voice. For twelve days he journeyed on through the jungle, each day hearing the singing repeated louder and louder, yet still without reaching the place whence it came. At last, on the twelfth day, he got close to the Nautch people's encampment, not far from a large town, and there saw the singer (who was none other than Moulee), singing and dancing in the midst of a great crowd of people who had collected around her. In her hand she held a garland of flowers, which she waved over her head as she danced.
Koila was so charmed with the sound of her voice that he felt spell-bound, and stood where he was, far off on the outskirts of the jungle, listening, without going any nearer.
When the entertainment was over, all the people crowded round Moulee, saying, 'Why should you, who have such a beautiful voice, go away and leave our city? Marry one of us, and then you will stay here always.' Then, the number of her suitors being so great that she did not know whom to choose, she said, 'Very well, he on whose neck this garland falls shall be my husband.' And waving the flowers she held two or three times round her head, she threw them from her with her utmost force.
The impetus given to the garland was so great that it swang through the air beyond the crowd and fell upon the neck of Koila as he stood by the borders of the jungle. All the people ran to see who was the fortunate possessor, and when they saw Koila they were astonished, for he looked more beautiful than any of the sons of men; it was as if an Immortal had suddenly come among them. And the Nautch people dragged him back to their camp, crying, 'You have won the garland; you must be Moulee's husband.' He answered, 'I only came here to look on; I cannot stay. This is not my country; I have a wife of my own at home.'—'That is nothing to us,' they said; 'it is your destiny to marry Moulee,—Moulee the beautiful one, Moulee whose voice you heard, and who dances so well. You must marry her, for the garland fell on you.'
Now so it was, that though Koila was very kind to his wife, he did not love her as well as she loved him (perhaps it was that having been accustomed to her from a child, Chandra's goodness and beauty struck him less than it did other people), and instead of thinking how unhappy she would be if he did not return, and go back at once, he stopped, and hesitated, and debated what to do. And the Nautch people gave him a drink that was a very powerful spell, insomuch that he soon totally forgot about his own home, and was married to Moulee, the Nautch girl, and lived among the Nautch people for many months. At last, one day, Moulee's mother (the very Nautch woman who had gone with Coplinghee Ranee and the Sowkar's wife to find Mahadeo) said to Koila, 'Son-in-law, you are a lazy fellow; you have been here now for a long time, but you do nothing for your support; it is we who have to pay for your food, we who have to provide your clothes— go now and fetch us some money, or I will turn you out of the house and you shall never see your wife Moulee again. Koila had no money to give his mother-in-law; then, for the first time, he bethought him of his own country and of Chandra, and he said, 'My first wife, who lives in my own country, has on her feet two bangles of very great value; let me return home and fetch one of them to sell, which will more than pay whatever I owe you.' The Nautch people consented. So Koila returned to his own home, and told Chandra what he wanted the money for, and asked her to let him have one of her bangles, but she refused, saying, 'You have been away a long, long time and left me all alone, and chosen for your second wife one of the Nautch people, and become one of them, and now you want to take one of my bangles, the bangles that I had when a little child, that have grown with my growth, and never been taken off, and to give it to your other wife. This shall not be; go back if you will to your new friends, but I will not give you my bangle.'
He answered, 'They gave me an enchanted drink which made me forget you for a time, but I am weary of them all; let me but go and pay my mother-in-law the money I owe her for food and clothes, and I will return and live in my own land, for you are my first wife.'
'Very well,' she said, 'you may take the bangle and sell it, and give the money to your second wife's mother, but take me also with you when you go; do not leave me here all alone again.' Koila agreed, and they both set off together towards the Madura Tinivelly country.
As they journeyed, Krishnaswami, who was playing at cards with his three wives, saw them, and when he saw them he laughed. Then his wives said to him, 'Why do you laugh? You have not laughed for such a long time, what amuses you so much now?' He answered, 'I am laughing to see Koila and his wife Chandra Ranee journeying towards the Madura Tinivelly country. He is going to sell his wife's bangle, and he will only be killed, and then she in anger will burn up all the country. O foolish people!' The goddesses answered, 'This is a very dreadful thing; let us go in disguise, and warn him not to enter the country.'—'It would be useless,' said Krishnaswami; 'if you do, he will only laugh at you and get angry with you.' But the goddesses determined to do their best to avert the threatened calamity. So they disguised themselves as old fortune-tellers, and went out with little lamps and their sacred books, to meet Koila as he came along the road followed by his wife. Then they said to him, 'Come not into the Madura Tinivelly country, for if you come you will be killed, and your wife in her fury will burn all the land with fire.' At first, Koila would not listen to them; then he bade them go away; and lastly, when they continued warning him, got angry, and beat them out of his path, saying, 'Do you think I am to be frightened out of the country by a parcel of old crones like you?'
Then Krishnaswami's three wives returned to him, much enraged at the treatment they had received, but he only said to them, 'Did not I tell you not to go, warning you that it would be useless?'
On getting near the Rajah's capital, Koila and Chandra came to the house of an old milk-seller, who was very kind to them, and gave them food and shelter for the night. Next morning Koila said to his wife, 'You had better stay here; this good old woman will take care of you, while I go into the town to sell your bangle.' Chandra agreed, and remained at the old woman's house while her husband went into the town. Of course he did not know that the Rajah and his wife (the Coplinghee Ranee) were Chandra's father and mother, any more than they, or Chandra herself, knew it, or than the three Mango children knew the story of their mothers' journey in search of Mahadeo.
Now a short time before Koila and Chandra reached the Madura Tinivelly country, Coplinghee Ranee had sent a very handsome pair of bangles to a Jeweller in the town to be cleaned. It chanced that in a high tree close to the Jeweller's house two eagles had built their nest, and the young eagles, who were very noisy birds, used to scream all day long, and greatly disturb the Jeweller's family. So one day when the old birds were away, the Jeweller's son climbed the tree, and pulled down the nest, and put the young eagles to death. When the old birds returned home and saw what was done, it grieved them very much, and they said, 'These cruel people have killed our children, let us punish them.' And seeing in the porch one of Coplinghee Ranee's beautiful bangles, which the Jeweller had just been cleaning, they swooped down and flew away with it.
The Jeweller did not know what to do; he said to his wife, 'To buy such a bangle as that would cost more than all our fortune, and to make one like it would take many, many years; I dare not say I have lost it, or they would think I had stolen it, and put me to death. The only thing I can do is to delay returning the other as long as possible, and try somehow to get one like it.' So next day when the Ranee sent to inquire if her bangles were ready, he answered, 'They are not ready yet; they will be ready to-morrow.' And the next day, and the next, he said the same thing. At last the Ranee's messengers got very angry at the continued delays; then, seeing he could no longer make excuses, the Jeweller sent the one bangle by them to the palace, beautifully cleaned, with a message that the other also would shortly be ready, but all this time he was hunting for a bangle costly enough to take the Ranee as a substitute for the one the eagles had carried away. Such a bangle, however, he could not find.
When Koila reached the town, he spread out a sheet in the corner of a street near the market-place, and, placing Chandra's bangle upon it, sat down close by, waiting for customers. Now, he was very, very handsome. Although dressed so plainly, he looked like a Prince, and the bangle he had to sell flashed in the morning light like seven suns. Such a handsome youth, and such a beautiful bangle, the people had never seen before; and many passers-by, with chattees on their heads, for watching him let the chattees tumble down and break, they were so much astonished; and several men and women, who were looking out of the windows of their houses, leant too far forward, and fell into the street, so giddy did they become from wonder and amazement!
But no one could be found to buy the bangle, for they all said 'We cannot afford such jewels; this bangle is fit only for a Ranee to wear.' At last, when the day had nearly gone, who should come by but the Jeweller who had been employed to clean Coplinghee Ranee's bangles, and who was in search of one to replace that which the eagles had stolen. No sooner did he see the one belonging to Chandra, which Koila was trying to sell, than he said to himself, 'That is the very thing I want, if I can only get it.' So he called his wife, and said to her, 'Go to that bangle-seller and speak kindly to him; say that the day is nearly gone, and invite him to come and lodge at our house for the night. For if we can make friends with him and get him to trust us, I shall be able to take the bangle from him, and say he stole it from me. And as he is a stranger here, every one will believe my word rather than his. This bangle is exactly the thing for me to take Coplinghee Ranee, for it is very like her own, only more beautiful.'
The Jeweller's wife did as she was told, and then the Jeweller himself went up to Koila and said to him, 'You are a bangle-seller, and I am a bangle-seller; therefore I look upon you as a brother. Come home, I pray you, with us, as my wife begs you to do, and we will give you food and shelter for the night, since you are a stranger in this country.' So these cunning people coaxed Koila to go home with them to their house, and pretended to be very kind to him, and gave him supper, and a bed to rest on for the night; but next morning early the Jeweller raised a hue and cry, and sent for the police, and bade them take Koila before the Rajah instantly, since he had stolen and tried to sell one of Coplinghee Ranee's bangles which he (the Jeweller) had been given to clean. It was in vain that Koila protested his innocence, and declared that the bangle he had belonged to his wife; he was a stranger—nobody would believe him. They dragged him to the palace, and the Jeweller accused him to the Rajah, saying, 'This man tried to steal the Ranee's bangle (which I had been given to clean) and to sell it. If he had done so, you would have thought I had stolen it, and killed me; I demand, therefore, that he in punishment shall be put to death.'
Then they sent 'for the Ranee to show her the bangle, but as soon as she saw it she recognised it as one of the bangles which had belonged to Chandra, and burst into tears, crying, 'This is not my bangle. O my lord, no jeweller on earth made this bangle! See, it is different from mine; and when any one comes near it, it tinkles, and all the little bells begin to ring. Have you forgotten it? This was my beauty's bangle! my diamond's! my little darling's! my lost child's! Where did it come from? How did it come here? How into this land, and into this town and bazaar, among these wicked people? For this Jeweller must have kept my bangle and brought this one in its place. No human goldsmith's hands made this; for it is none other than Chandra's.' Then she begged the Rajah to inquire further about it.
But they all thought her mad; and the Jeweller said, 'It is the Ranee's fancy, for this is the same bangle she gave me to clean.' The other people also agreed that both the bangles were almost exactly alike, and must be a pair; and it being certain that Koila had had the bangle when he was seized by the police, the Rajah ordered him to be instantly executed. But the Ranee took Chandra's bangle and locked it away in a strong cupboard, apart from all her other jewels.
Then they took Koila out into the jungle and would have cut off his head, but he said to his guards, 'If I must die, let me die by my own hands,' and drawing his sword he fell upon it, and as the sword was very sharp it cut his body in two—one half fell on one side of the sword, and the other half on the other side—and they left his body where it fell.
When news of what had taken place came to the town, many people who had seen Koila selling his bangle the day before began to murmur, saying, 'There must be some injustice here—the Rajah has been over-hasty. Most likely the poor man did not steal the bangle. He would not have tried to sell it openly before us all in the bazaar if it had been stolen property. How cruel of the Rajah to put such a handsome, gentle, noble-looking youth to death and he was a stranger too!' And many wept at thought of his hard fate. When the Rajah heard of this he was very angry, and sent and commanded that the matter should be no further discussed in the town, saying, 'If any one speaks another word of what has been done, or laments or sheds tears for the dead, he shall be instantly hanged.' Then the people all felt very frightened, and not a soul dared to speak of Koila, though every one thought about him much.
Early the very morning that this happened, the old milk-seller (at whose house, which was a little out of the town, Chandra had been sleeping), took her guest a bowl full of milk to drink; but no sooner had Chandra tasted it than she began to cry, saying, 'Good mother, what have you done? my mouth is full of blood!'— 'No, no, my daughter,' answered the old woman; 'you must have been dreaming some bad dream. See, this is pure, fresh, warm milk I have brought you; drink again.' But when Chandra tasted it for the second time, she answered, 'Oh no! Oh no! it is not milk that I taste, but blood. All last night I had a dreadful dream, and this morning when I woke I found that my marriage necklace had snapped in two; and now this milk tastes to me as blood. Let me go! let me go! for I know my husband is dead.'
The good old woman tried to comfort her, saying, 'Why should you fancy he is dead? He was quite well yesterday, when he went to sell your bangle; and he said he would come back to you soon; in a little while, very likely, he will be here.' But she answered, 'No, no; I feel sure that he is dead Oh, let me go! for I must find him before I die.' Then the old woman said, 'You must not go; you are too beautiful to run about through the streets of this strange town alone; and your husband would be very angry if he saw you doing so, and who knows but that you might lose your way, and get carried off as a slave? remember, he told you to stay here till he returned. Be patient; remain where you are, and I will go quickly into the town and seek your husband. If he is alive I will bring him back to you, and if he is dead I will bring you word.' So, taking a chattee full of milk on her head, as if to sell, she went to the town to find Koila, while every minute seemed an hour to Chandra, until her return.
When the old milk-seller reached the town, she went up and down all the streets, looking for Koila, or expecting to hear some one mention the handsome stranger who had gone to sell such a wonderful bangle the day before. But she could not find him, nor did she hear him spoken of; for all were afraid to say a word about him, on account of the Rajah's decree. Being unable to trace him, the old woman got suspicious, and began to search more carefully than before, down all the streets near the market-place, where she thought he was most likely to have gone; but, lest people should wonder at her errand, she called out each time as if she had some different thing to sell. First, 'Buy some milk— who'll buy milk—who'll buy?' Then, on going for a second time down the same street, 'Buy butter—butter! very fine butter!' and so on. At last one woman, who had been watching her with some curiosity, said, 'Old woman, what nonsense you talk! you have been half a dozen times up and down this same street, as if you had half a dozen different things to sell in that one chattee. Any one would think you had as little sense as that pretty young bangle-seller yesterday, who spent all the day trying to sell it, and got put to death for his pains.'
'Of whom do you speak?' asked the old woman. 'Oh!' said the other, 'I suppose as you 're a milk-seller from the country you know nothing about it. But that's not to be talked about, for the Rajah has said that whoever speaks of him, or mourns him, shall be instantly hanged. Ah! he was very handsome.'
'Where is he now?' whispered the old woman. 'There, answered the other; 'you can see the place where that crowd of people has collected. The Rajah's Jeweller accused him of having stolen the bangle; so he was executed; many thought unjustly, but do not say I said it.' And so saying, she pointed towards the jungle some way off. The old woman ran to the place; but when she there saw the two halves of Koila's body lying side by side, stiff and cold, she threw her earthen chattee down on the ground, and fell on her knees, crying bitterly. The noise attracted the attention of the Rajah's guards, some of whom immediately seized her, saying, 'Old woman, it is against the law to lament that dead man, or murmur at the Rajah's decree; you deserve to be put to death.' But she answered quickly, 'The dead man! I do not cry for the dead man; can you not see that my chattee is broken, and all the milk spilt? Is it not enough to make one weep?' And she began to cry again. 'Hush! hush!' they answered; 'don't cry; come, the chattee wasn't worth much; it was only an earthen thing. Stop your tears, and may be we'll give you a chattee of gold.'
'I neither care for your golden chattees, nor for silver,' she said angrily. 'Go away; go away! my earthen chattee was worth them all. My grandfather's grandfather and my grandmother's grandmother used this chattee; and to think that it should now be broken and all the milk spilt.' And picking up the broken pieces, she went home sobbing, as if the loss of her chattee was all her grief. But when she got to her own house, she ran in to where Chandra was, crying, 'Alas, my pretty child! alas, my daughter! your fears are true!' and as gently as she could she told her what had happened.
No sooner did Chandra hear it than she ran away straight to the Rajah's Palace in the midst of the town, and rushing into the room where he was, said, 'How did you dare to kill my husband?'
Now, at the sound of her voice, her bangle, which the Ranee had locked up in the cupboard, broke through all the intervening doors, and rolled to Chandra's feet.
The Rajah was unable to answer her a word. Then she fell on her knees, and rent her clothes, and tore her hair; and when she tore it all the land began to burn, and all her hair burned too.
Then the old milk-seller, who had followed her, ran and put a lump of butter on her head, thinking to cool it; and two other women who were by fetched water to pour upon her hair, but by this time nineteen lines of houses were in flames. Then the old woman cried, 'Oh! spare the Purwari lines; don't burn them down, for I did all I could for you.' So Chandra did not burn that part of the town near which the old woman and her friends lived. But the fire burnt on and on in the other direction; and it killed the Rajah and the Ranee, and all the people in the palace; and the wicked Jeweller and his wife—and, as he was dying, Chandra tore out his heart and gave it to the eagles who hovered overhead, saying, 'Here is vengeance for the death of your little ones.' And the Nautch girl, Moulee, and her mother, who were watching the fire from far off, were smothered in the flames.
Then Chandra went to where Koila's dead body lay, and wept over it bitterly; and as she was weeping, there fell down to her from heaven a needle and thread; and she took them, saying, 'Oh that I could by any means restore you!' and, placing the two halves of his body side by side, she sewed them together.
And when she had done this, she cried to Mahadeo, saying, 'Sire, I have done the best I can; I have joined the body; give it life.' And as she said these words Mahadeo had pity on her, and he sent Koila's spirit back, and it returned to his body again. Then Chandra was glad, and they returned and lived in their own land.
But to this day in the Madura Tinivelly country you can trace where all the land was burnt.
- The Creator.
- See Notes.
- Two provinces of the Madras Presidency on the mainland opposite Ceylon. They are famous in Hindoo Mythology.
- See Notes.
- A religious mendicant.
- The Hindoo Heaven.
- He of the Mango Stone.
- From the sweet mango pulp.
- Or, The Moon Lady.
- See Notes.
- The Hindoo god Krishna; an incarnation of Vishnu.
- See Notes.
- Or outcasts; literally, 'the extra-muralists,' i.e. the houses of the lowest classes, not permitted to live within the city walls.
- See Notes.